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Information provided in this website aims to promote rejuvenation and replanting of coconut plantations in the Pacific region using preferably local coconut varieties. It was conceived in the framework of the CIDP expertise on "Coconut Production and Seeds System in the Pacific Region", of which the terms of references of the expertise are summarized here. This website is under the Creative commons licence CC BY-ND 4.0, meaning you are free to duplicate all the available information as long as its source is appropriately cited (R. Bourdeix & al, 2018. Coconut planting material for the Pacific Region,

Rewards! 5 FJD per coconut! we are searching for special coconuts, with sweet and soft husk...

Twelve High Definition coconut posters
to print and pin in your office

Public lecture at USP Lower Campus, Suva, Monday 26th February at 2pm

Variety, Cultivar, Population and Accession, what does it mean?
The world catalogue of coconut conserved germplasm
List of germplasm conserved in ex situ coconut genebanks

Selection of mother palms and seednuts

Staking and laying out of coconut fields and nurseries

Organic management of coconut plantations
Use of plant cover to reduce weeding and fix nitrogen
Legislations and list of authorised products for organic management
Design and implementation of coconut seed systems
As debated in the Global Strategy for conservation and use of genetic resources, it seems possible to estimate roughly the number of coconut palms planted yearly at the global level. Coconut is cultivated as a crop on 12 million hectares, totaling approximately 1.44 billion palms, based on the likely average population density of 120 palms/ha. If we assume that coconut palms are replanted on average every 50 years, we can estimate that at least 28.9 million coconut palms (1/50, so 2%) need to be replanted each year simply to maintain a constant cultivated area. In fact the coconut area is presently increasing. Moreover, this first estimation does not take into account that a significant percentage of existing palms are already senile (more than 50 years old) and need to be replaced as soon as possible. Thus, this first estimation will have to be refined at the Pacific regional level, and for each Pacific country involved in CIDP project.

 Cook Islands
 Federated States of Micronesia
 Marshall Islands
 Papua New Guinea
 Solomon Islands

Other useful tools
Developing coconut "sanctuaries", coconut eco-museum and spice gardens in the Pacific region.


Public lecture at USP Lower Campus, Suva, Monday 26th February at 2pm.

Coconut renewal 
Traditional and modern stories about the tree of life.
Biogeography, culture, cultivation, ecotourism and new markets.

By Roland Bourdeix (1,2)
(1) CIRAD, UMR AGAP, F-34398 Montpellier, France.
(2) AGAP, Univ Montpellier, CIRAD, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro, Montpellier, France. 

Here it is! MRS lecture Theater
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This lecture lasts from 45 minutes/ It includes photographs and excerpts from previously unseen films from around fifteen countries. Four aspects of the coconut palm are described in succession:
The original coconut palm: on tropical islands well before man arrived.
The cultural coconut palm: the one in villages where coconut has been part of traditions, religions and symbolism for thousands of years.
The eco-touristic coconut palm: a symbol of exotic locations, which plays a major role in the environment, eco-tourism, handicrafts, fashion and advertising.
The agricultural coconut palm: over the last two hundred years? From the development of estate plantations associated with colonization, the copra and fibre markets, to the recent boom market and the diversification of coconut products.
Opportunity and plans to include the rarest and most precious coconut varieties in the landscaping of campus of universities and other public places will be discussed.

The original aspects of the coconut palm covers the dissemination of its fruits by sea, the concepts of genetic drift, founding effects, natural selection and biodiversity. The theory of coconut dissemination and the mystery of the "wild" coconut palm, the first variety to be lost, are also discussed. Coconut reproduction methods, which vary depending on the varieties, are described, highlighting the research issues yet to be solved.
The cultural and ethnological aspects of the coconut palm are doubtless the most surprising features of this lecture. The spectacular diversity of its fruits, and its worldwide distribution, are presented with special emphasis on the selection criteria that lie behind that diversity. Particular attention is paid to Dwarf coconut palms, the most advanced stage of coconut domestication by man. The feminine symbolism of the coconut palm is explored, particularly through Indian and Polynesian legends, linguistic analyses of Indonesian dialects, and a comparative mythology approach. The traditional South Sea islander practice of planting on islets is described; as part of a project, such practices could be incorporated into a rational modern strategy for biodiversity management.
The touristic coconut palm abounds, be it in advertising or planted in tropical tourist resorts; but all in all, little is known about coconut and its diversity in that professional environment. As far as cultural aspects, eco-tourism and gastronomy are concerned, coconut still requires further integration. In some countries, coconut-based handicrafts are developing, but further progress also remains to be made. The answer lies in developing projects that combine eco-tourism, the renewal of local cultures, the conservation of genetic resources, and their use in landscaping, gastronomy and handicrafts.
The agricultural coconut palm is examined from the angle of the planting material used in plantations, and the background of breeding techniques used for that material: low-efficiency mass selection, progeny-based selection, the advent of coconut hybrids and their improvement. The coconut palm seems to be evolving from the status of an industrial crop to a fruit, food and environmental crop.
We would like this lecture not to be attended not only by farmers and scientists, but also landscape gardeners, mayors, those in charge of regional planning, managers of tourist complexes and travel agencies, associations for the renewal of local culture and lastly, of course, nurserymen and gardeners. The lecture ends by presentation of the book  "Coconut, a guide to traditional and improved varieties", of which the lecturer is first author.
To know more:

Short presentation of the lecturer:
Dr R. Bourdeix holds a PhD in Genetics and Plant Breeding from the French University of Paris Sud Orsay. From 1989, he was recruited by the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD). From 1989 to 2000, he worked as coconut geneticist in the Coconut Research Station "Marc Delorme" from CNRA (National Agricultural Research Center of Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa). From the 1990s he conducted training activities at the University of Cocody. He also led a number of projects and expert missions in more than thirty countries in the tropics, especially on behalf of Bioversity International and the COGENT (the International Network for Coconut Genetic Resources) which brings together 41 producing countries. From 2011 to 2013, he coordinated COGENT and was in charge of the compilation of the Global Strategy for Conservation and Use of Coconut Genetic Resources. Network communication was also strongly enhanced through the inclusion of many photographs, posters and videos. In 2013 he created the NGO Diversiflora International whose aims to promote diversity in all its forms, whether natural (biological) or cultural.. In 2014, he joined the Research Unit AGAP (Genetic Improvement of Mediterranean and Tropical Plants) and its Scientific Team DDSE (Dynamics of diversity, societies and environments). He is now in charge of an expertise on "Production and Seeds System in the Pacific Region" for the CIDP project (Coconut Industry Development in the Pacific Region) leaded by SPC. The themes of his research gradually evolved from genetics to a multidisciplinary approach integrating ethnology and multifonctional landscape management. Understanding crop diversity needs to study not only the plants but also people who cultivate them.
To know more: 


Advanced methods for improving local tall-type populations

Nothing can replace a well-designed, regular and sustainable coconut breeding program conducted by well-trained professionals. Very few countries have succeeded in creating and maintaining such a program, which requires the yearly planting of at least ten hectares of fields breeding experiments.

From the breeder’s point of view, there are three variants of mass selection, based on the reproductive system used - mass selection using open pollination, intercrossing or selfing (Bourdeix, 1988). Mass selection using open pollination has been practiced the most but is efficient only on a very long term (see dedicated section). Mass selection using intercrossing appears more effective, as it allows for a strict selection of pollinators while retaining the potential for large seednut production. This method was applyed in Vanuatu. Mass selection using self-Pollination induces an inbreeding depression  and is not recommended for seednut production.

Mass selection using controlled pollination and crossing between best palms
This method was applied with success in Vanuatu. Beginning with two Vanuatu Tall populations collected near the Saraoutou research centre, four mass selection cycles by open pollination or intercrossing were conducted from 1962 to 2002 (Labouisse et al., 2004). This programme resulted in improved Vanuatu Tall population that is now widely distributed to farmers. The main criterion of selection was copra weight per fruit. Because of the strong negative correlation between the number and weight of fruit (Bourdeix, 1988), there was no increase in the number of fruit per palm over the different generations, rather a slight decrease was observed.

Mass selection using self-Pollination
In the case of Tall-type coconut palms, several studies have shown that a single generation of selfing induces an inbreeding depression  and usually reduces the yield of fruits from 20 to 30%. Choosing best palms and selfing them will give a progeny with an average yield decline of 15 to 30% when compared to parent palms, without appreciably increasing production homogeneity. So this method is not recommended for seednut production.

Within-population selection based on progeny test
As in the case of mass selection, the methods described hereunder have a common denominator (i.e., the selected population initially was limited to only one local Tall coconut variety). All the classical methods based on within-population breeding can be applied to the coconut palm, although the long generation period and the low multiplication rate are strong limiting factors especially for an economically viable seednuts production system.
In 1967, Liyanage published a study dealing with the analysis of the open pollinated progenies of 104 Sri Lanka Tall. The low number of each progeny (nine half-sibs) seems insufficient to safeguard against divergence due to sampling and environmental effects. However, this study made it possible to estimate the effect of a selection based on the open pollinated progenies. The six best families among the 104 exhibited 32% higher yield level than the average. This genetic gain, although it might have been overestimated, could be compared to the 14 % progress obtained by mass selection. This study underlines another limit of mass selection (i.e., progeny tests are indispensable in evaluating the effectiveness of this method). Once these tests have been conducted, it is much better to select the parents on the basis of the progeny value than on the basis of their phenotypic value. The selection of half-sib families (HS) is therefore more effective than the mass selection method. 
A pragmatic coconut breeder could ask the following question: “Why focus on a within variety breeding method when the hybrid vigour between varieties gives an opportunity of immediate and appreciable genetic progress?” Nevertheless, the within-population breeding strategy is sometimes fully justified. For instance, in the Vanuatu archipelago, only one local variety is resistant to a lethal disease. In many countries, there is a cultural co-evolution between farmers and their traditional varieties. Farmers do not want to loose their traditional varieties even if most of them also plant and try some new coconut hybrids. However, these precious Tall-type varieties must also be improved using a participatory approach so that farmers’ preferences will be taken into account during the selection process.

Bourdeix, R. (1988). Efficacité de la sélection massale sur les composantes du rendement chez le cocotier (Effectiveness of mass selection based on yield components in coconut). Oléagineux (France). 43, 7: 283-295.
Bourdeix R. (1999). Coconut selection and breeding. Pp. 117-196 in Modern Coconut Management (J.G. Ohler Ed). Intermediate Technology Publications, FAO, Universeteit Leiden.
Labouisse J.P., Sileye, T., Morin, J.P., Hamelin, C., Baudouin, L., Bourdeix, R. and Rouzière, A. (2004). Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) genetic improvement in Vanuatu: Overview of research achievements from 1962 to 2002. OCL 11. (4): 354-61.
Labouisse J.P., Sileye, T., Morin, J.P., Hamelin, C., Baudouin, L., Bourdeix, R. and Rouzière, A. (2004). Coconut (Cocos nucifera L.) genetic improvement in Vanuatu: Overview of research achievements from 1962 to 2002. OCL 11. (4): 354-61.



We are especially interested to be in contact with NGOs working on the coconut agriculture and value chain in the Pacific region, so if you are leading such kind of activities, please do not hesitate to contact us for any question regarding coconut replanting.
We are also encouraging local stakeholders (men and women farmers, private enterprise, NGOs and CBOs) to become more involved in supplying good quality coconut germplasm. In the most performing countries for coconut production, of which Brazil and India, some private companies are presently doing useful and profitable business by selling coconut planting material to farmers.
Other potential partners

Coconut genebanks for seednut production

In link with seed production systems, creating and maintaining coconut genebanks is crucial for three main reasons:
  • Locating the germplasm help to assess where and what are the best varieties for  seednut production.
  • Pacific Region is the richest zone for coconut varieties (diversity of germplasm by land surface unit). It seems that is is also where traditional varieties are disappearing most quickly, mainly because of the cultural changes caused by globalization. Genebanks helps to mitigate this loss.
  • In most cases,  for an economy of scale, the units for conserving germplasm and producing seednuts are conceived together and planted side to side. This strategy is questionable in the Pacific region because a centralized system is sometimes not adapted to the multitude of islands that can make up a single country. Some new approaches, like the Polymotu concept, try to link seednut production and conservation in a decentralized way.


Rewards! 5 FJD per coconut! we are searching for special coconut palms, with sweet and soft husk, and green color....

Rewards! we are looking for special coconut palms, with sweet and soft husk, and green color...  Every mature coconut with water remaining inside will be paid 5 FJD! We are only searching for coconut of green color when young, not those with brown or red colors...  A few brown or red colored fruits can also interest us, but only if they are Dwarf coconut palms (Niu leka).

We will use this variety to create new seed gardens for coconut farmers, and it will also be conserved and secured in the National Coconut Collection held by the Ministry of Agriculture.  

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If you have such coconuts, please send an email with your contact details to :

Husk of the "sweet husk coconut" (rigth)
when compared to a normal coconut (Left)
The best varieties are those whose husk is very soft; The more soft and edible the husk, the better the variety. We observed five or six trees of this type, whose floss was more or less tender and sweet, without being able to establish a more precise classification. When the fruits are walled and fallen to the ground, it is sometimes possible to tear with bare hand the fluff of the fruit whose fibers are white.
The genetic, physiological and biochemical mechanisms responsible for the 'Sweet husk' characteristic are unknown: the fibers of the husk are whiter and finer, and especially less strongly connected to each other In the husk, there are accumulations of whitish particles and It is most likely an enzyme responsible for the biosynthesis of one or more of the components of the flock that is genetically "deficient." It is not known if there is only one enzyme that can be affected, or several, in the latter case, one could have several phenotypes of Sweet husk coconut palms from distinct mutations.One of the first studies to be conducted would be to analyze which sugars accumulate abnormally in the flock, and which biosynthetic pathways are blocked.

This rare varieties are in very strong disparity; when we can find a tree, in most cases, it does not bear fruit that can be used as seed: children take all the fruits to eat before they become mature. From an ethnological point of view, an investigation carried out in Moorea in 2006 illustrates perfectly the situation. Interview with a farmer from Moorea: "Do you know the Kaipoa (local name of Sweet husk in Moorea)?" "Yes - you know where to find it?" "No, I had one in my field but I cut it off." - Why did you cut it? years of production, I could not harvest a fruit, the children of the neighbors came to steal everything. " Here's how the fact that a rare genetic resource is too much appreciated can lead to its destruction.


Foresight on the evolution of farmers' varietal choices and coconut ideotypes

By Roland Bourdeix 

This prospective exercise aims to predict how and when coconut varieties chosen by farmers will evolve. The "how" is more easy to predict that the "When". The latest will depends on the willingness of countries to develop efficient coconut breeding programs. Changes described here under will probably require twenty to fifty years to occurs.

From Tall to Dwarf types
Risk associated with Tall-type coconut palms. From 6 to 12 years, their vertical growth generally ranges from 60 to 120 cm per year. Even if their growth strongly reduces with age, they generally reach a stem length of about 15 m at 25 years old. Fruits and leaves fall on people, house and cars and cause damage. People, and especially children, fall when climbing palms and are often severely injured. When planted closed to houses and when a cyclone occurs, uprooted stems damage roofs and cars. See the references and summaries cited at the end of this publication.
Many villages of the Pacific region are already forbidding to plant Tall-types near houses. In fact, in addition to their resilience, the main advantage of Tall-types seems for intercropping: their rapid vertical growth allows to install rapidly other crops under the coconut palms But as leaves of Tall-types are generally longer, they require lower planting density and their light interception is higher than other varieties. This is not a good characteristic, even in the case of intercropping.

Cultivation of Dwarf coconut varieties is very rapidly expanding. This expansion is presently based on a narrow genetic diversity, mainly the “Malayan Dwarf” type, characterized by thin stem easily toppled by cyclones, low resilience and sensitivity to drought. The Brazilian Green Dwarf, which presently represents more than 60% of the seed nut production in Brazil, belongs to this type. The use of compacts dwarfs and/or crosses between Compact and Malayan Dwarfs should be introduced within the global system as soon as is possible. These types have thicker stems, slower vertical growth and, apparently, a better resilience. Pollen and/or embryos of Compact and "Super" Dwarfs could be collected directly from farmer’s fields and sent to the gene banks and to the coconut breeders working in various producing countries.

From heterogenerous varieties to uniform, reproducible and predictable cultivars

Our interactions with farmers showed that most of them would like to plant “real” cultivars, i.e. «often intentionally bred and selected subset of a species that will behave uniformly and predictably when grown in an environment to which it is adapted”. Farmers want precocious, high yielding varieties, adapted to markets needs, growing predictably and uniformly. Farmers prefer a diversity of planting material, but they want to control this diversity. For instance many farmers are fed up to see, in the same field, palms with bad and good yields, small and big fruits, germinating slowly or rapidly, with thin and thick kernels. If they have the choice, we trust that most of farmers will choose to plant more than one cultivar in their fields, as far as these cultivars meet their requirements.

About coconut fruits
Coconut fruits seem not to be fully convenient for human present-day uses. The fibrous coconut husk is hard when mature and, except in some very rare soft/sweet husk palms, it is impossible to remove it by hand. The shell is also hard and can be quite dangerous to break if a suitable tool is not used. The kernel is naturally attached strongly to the shell. It remains too thin, firm and fibrous and sometimes its consumption can harm gums. Regarding tender coconut harvested for water consumption, the husk is too thick and the water makes up only 15 to 26 % of the total weight of the fruit. Thus, there remains considerable work for breeders to upgrade the coconut palm to the status of a fully domesticated species.

The numerous, although disappearing, "sweet husk" coconut varieties existing in the Pacific region could strongly contribute to develop new coconut ideotypes. For some of the best sweet husk varieties, the husk can easily be removed only with bare hands; Observations conducted in French Polynesia show that the easiness on separating shell from both husk and kernel strongly varies according varieties. Well conceived breeding programs could address these questions within a period of 10 to 20 years.

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Mulford, J. S., Oberli, H., & Tovosia, S. (2001). Coconut palm‐related injuries in the pacific islands. ANZ journal of surgery, 71(1), 32-34.
Falls from trees and other tree related injuries are the most common cause of trauma in some parts of rural Melanesia. A four year review of all admissions for trauma to the Provincial Hospital at Alotau, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, showed that 27% were due to falls from trees, and a further 10% were due to related injuries, such as being struck by a falling branch or a coconut. A questionnaire distributed to rural health centres showed that during the study period at least 28 villagers died from falls from trees before reaching hospital. Head and chest trauma were common causes of death. Many injured patients were boys. Forearm fractures were the most common injuries, but more serious injuries were also frequently encountered. Trees responsible for most deaths and injuries included the coconut palm, betel palm, mango, and breadfruit. There are many strategies for preventing such injuries; perhaps the most important is to stop small boys climbing tall trees. Such falls are a serious occupational hazard for many subsistence farmers.

Barss, P., Dakulala, P., & Doolan, M. (1984). Falls from trees and tree associated injuries in rural Melanesians. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed), 289(6460), 1717-1720.
Coconut palms are an integral part of life in the Solomon Islands, given the widespread dependence of subsistence agriculture. The present study reviews all patients referred to the Department of Surgery and Orthopaedics between January 1994 and December 1999 who had a coconut palm-related injury. This was possible due to the trauma epidemiology form, which records the patient details, cause of injury, fracture details and other injury information. A total of 3.4% of all injuries presenting to the surgical department was related to the coconut palm. Eighty-five patients fell from the coconut palm, 16 patients had a coconut fruit fall on them, three patients had a coconut palm fall on them and one patient kicked a coconut palm. The majority of patients who were injured by falling from a coconut palm were young (aged 6–25 years). Eleven of the 16 patients struck by falling fruit were under 25 years of age. The majority of injuries sustained were fractures. Patients falling from coconut palms sustained mainly upper limb fractures (60.1% of all fractures) or spinal fractures (16.3%). Patients injured by falling fruit sustained skull or upper limb fractures. All skull fractures occurred in patients under the age of 10 years.

Barss, P., Dakulala, P., & Doolan, M. (1984). Falls from trees and tree associated injuries in rural Melanesians. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed), 289(6460), 1717-1720.
Falling coconuts can cause injury to the head, back, and shoulders. A 4-year review of trauma admissions to the Provincial Hospital, Alotau, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea, revealed that 2.5% of such admissions were due to being struck by falling coconuts. Since mature coconut palms may have a height of 24 up to 35 meters and an unhusked coconut may weigh 1 to 4 kg, blows to the head of a force exceeding 1 metric ton are possible. Four patients with head injuries due to falling coconuts are described. Two required craniotomy. Two others died instantly in the village after being struck by dropping nuts.

Index, B. M. (2012). Health of Coconut Tree Climbers of Rural Southern India–Medical Emergencies, Body Mass Index and Occupational Marks: A Quantitative and Survey Study. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research6(1), 57-60.
Coconut plucking, a profession of a few communities in southern India, is an arduous calling now. Permanent cosmetic defects to the skin, apart from medical emergencies, have forced many to abandon this time honoured profession. The objective of the present study was to explore the health status and the casualties in traditional coconut tree climbers in southern India. A total of 240 male volunteers, all below 55 years, who were engaged in the profession, were interviewed between January 2006 and December 2008. 15% volunteers from group1 (<10 years of experience), 26.6% from group 2 (10-20 years of experience), 44% from group 3 (20-30 years of experience), and 41.3% from group 4 (>30 years of experience) fell down from trees, resulting in injuries. The histories of accidental cuts/lacerations from special knives which were used and those of skids/slips during the monsoon season in groups1, 2, 3, and 4 were 7.7, 15.0, 16.9, 12.0% respectively. The body weight and the BMI of the climbers in groups 2, 3 and 4 showed significant declines as compared to those of the non-climbers. Colles, vertebral and maxillary fractures, tendocalcaneus lesions and severe allergies, were among the medical emergencies which were listed.